Travel: La Posada in Winslow, AZ

I used the National Parks website to research various areas of Rt 66 and attractions we might be interested in.  Because I knew we would be visiting Winslow Arizona (yes, for the corner), I paid particular attention to the various places mentioned for that area.  On the NPS site, it noted a hotel that is on the National Register for Historic Places, the La Posada Hotel.  A quick Google search brought up their webpage and I knew immediately that THIS would be our first hotel stop on the road.

   

According to the NPS site:

Built in 1929, the 11-acre grounds, hotel, and train station that make up La Posada Historic District are, in their own right, historic. But an additional layer of history is here, one invented in the imagination of the architect. In order to design the La Posada complex, architect Mary Colter made up a century and a half of history for the site. She imagined La Posada as a Spanish ranchoof the early 1800s. Here lived a wealthy Spanish don. When the don and his family fell on hard times, the hacienda was renovated into a hotel with furnishings and grounds intact. In such an inaccessible location, Colter reasoned, materials would have been local, and the labor native. The complex would have been changed and added onto through generations.

With this story in mind, she designed Mission Revival buildings with adobe walls, complete with niches for saints, roofs of red terra cotta, and windows with wooden shutters and iron rejas (grilles). Floors were flagstone, and exposed ceiling beams were covered with branches to simulate indigenous adobe construction. There were period maids’ costumes and dinner china, vigas (protruding wooden beams) beneath the gables, wrought-iron railings on the stairways, clay tiles on the chimneys, sand-blasted planks on the doors, and a wishing well in the garden. Best of all in this elaborate history-within-a-history confection, Colter faked an archeological site–the supposed ruins of an old fort that had stood on the site before the don built his hacienda.

   

The benefactor who allowed Mary to see her dream to fulfillment was Fred Harvey who had a working relationship with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF).  The ATSF did not provide comfort cars for passengers to dine in during travel.  Because of that, passengers were forced to rely of eateries along the railroad stops.  Those stops were oftentimes very poorly made and dirty.  Fred Harvey saw the need for both a place to eat as well as a place to sleep and regular stops along the lines.  In 1876, he took over the ATSF Topeka Kansas depot and established the first Harvey House which served full meals to both passengers and local residents.  Because of his cleanliness and customer satisfaction approvals, ATSF gave Fred Harvey control of all food service along the line.

According to NPS site: “Harvey Girls, the 1946 movie starring Judy Garland, paid romantic tribute to Harvey’s business empire.  When Garland sang the show-stopping “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe,” she not only garnered an academy award, she reminded the United States of this time of railway travel and new national vistas.”

The hotel is still an active train stop along the line.  When you step through the backdoor, you will find a number of trains passing at any given hour only the majority of these are carrying product, not passengers.  I had been fascinated by the double-decker trains for the entire ride  to this point.  The freakishly long trains snaking through the desert, being pulled/pushed along by as many as up to six and seven engines.

The hotel offers handouts about the establishment as well as additional information on the Harvey Girls.  At check-in, you are given a self guided tour brochure with various places noted by number on the map.  When you reach each numbered destination, there are plaques or information cards regarding some factoid on the hotel.

 

We checked into our room and it was so vivid with colors and tiles and art.  We had a patio room on the first floor and the room had a glass door that opened to an outdoor seating area.  You check-in within the gift shop.  The staff were very warm and polite.  There is coffee available and in the morning some light snacks.

   

I genuinely loved this hotel and am thankful to the NPS site for mentioning it.  Bobby slept in the morning after our arrival but I woke around 6AM and was soon out the door to wander the hallways and grounds and to take in the hotel in all of its glory.  In its heyday, La Posada was frequented by a number of famous people (scientists, celebrities, politicians, pilots, heroes, all sorts of honored guests).  Their photos line the walls and rooms are named after famous guests.

The people who manage this property are very mindful of the environment, of animals in the wild, the bees, and being at peace with your fellow human.  This was evident at every turn.

     

There are signs about books throughout the hotel.  Everywhere you turned, there was a bookshelf packed with every genre of book imaginable or a tabletop with a couple random books.  There were nooks for you to be comfy and read or listen to your headphones or whatever you wanted to do.  Couches, chairs, tables, chessboards, were at your disposal.  If one chair was not comfortable, no worries, there are nine more in the same room for you to try out.

Fortunately for me, we stayed at the hotel on May 19th and that meant Spring in full bloom.  The gardens were remarkable.

Around every bend of the property and in every nook and cranny, there was some metal statue staring at you through the branches.  I also stumbled upon a hay bale maze and a hippo.  The details here and there that made it almost a sensory overload for me.

  

The artwork of Tina Mion could be seen in almost every room, stairway and hall.  I had seen her Wizard of Oz painting while reading political commentary once and had no idea that her work would be here.  The tones and colors of her photos were a nice pop from the earth tones of the walls throughout the establishment.  Other artists were represented in the hotel as well, but her work was featured prominently.  There was a small gallery of her work on the second floor.  My favorite painting of hers is the one that turned out the most blurry (and did not have a small print for sale in the shop).  It is titled: Nuns and Babushkas.

I bought postcard sized prints of her work for Mander and myself.  These are the two I purchased for myself and I felt a strong connection (for personal reasons) to both.  I seriously love her work.

La Posada supports a number of artists in installations throughout the hotel as well as in the gift shop.  I picked up a piece of pottery for Mander, a jewelry box for Bobby’s Mom, a few odds and ends for myself.  The staff were amazing and wrapped Mander’s very fragile piece of pottery to ensure it would not break for the trek.

The next morning, we had breakfast downstairs in The Turquoise Room.  I had a mimosa because we were on vacation, Bobby had an unleaded mimosa because he was driving.  Because it was vacation and I was feeling more adventurous, I tried the prickly pear syrup on my silver dollar pancakes and it was simply delicious.

We left the hotel on our way to “the corner” and the Little Painted Desert County Park.  I would HIGHLY recommend this hotel for your Winslow, AZ stay.  Keep in mind, this is not a flashy over-the-top Hilton ore Hyatt.  This is a piece of iconic history that dates back to the 1930s and is rich and vibrant with history.  HIGHLY recommend.

I found an online article on the newspapers website for the day the hotel was opened.  I will post the clipping at the bottom (which is hard to read) but translate it below.  The clipping is from the Casa Grande Dispatch on Thursday, 22 May 1930, Pg 8.

Santa Fe Formally Opens Winslow Hotel: Santa Fe passengers stopping for meals at Winslow, Arizona, have an opportunity to participate in the formal opening of La Posada, the newest link in the famous chain of Fred Harvey hotels found along the Santa Fe between Chicago and the Pacific Coast.  This rambling earth-tinted structure which has been rising gradually in the desert country for nearly a year now awaits to add to the delight of the long distance traveler as well as the patrons of a new motor car detour through the Petrified Forest which the Santa Fe and Fred Harvey will establish within the next few days.  In form and style, La Posada represents one of those great ranches of Old Mexico that in many instances for centuries have been the ancestral homes or ranches of proud Spanish families. Like them, La Posada is the embodiment of simplicity, spacious comfort and colorful interest characteristic of Old Spanish craftsmanship.  Spread over an immense area which had to be cleared of numerous buildings, the new facilities are complete in every detail, including a new Santa Fe station of similar design, a big heating plant and an extensive system of new tracks.  The new station is connected with La Posada proper by a long covered patio and the Santa Fe found it necessary to revamp its entire Winslow yard to conform to the new layout.  Just as the early Spanish emigrants to the Santa Fe Southwest were forced to surround their holdings, including their pasture yards, with high walls or fences as protection against foe and weather, a wall six feet high, copied in design and craftsmanship from historic remains, found only a few miles away, has been built around the entire estate.  This wall is carved with loop holes for gun and has round corner towers for (?) purposes.  The new hotel contains 70 rooms, most of them with bath.  In addition there is one large suite and four small suites each consisting of living room and bedroom.  The dining room seats 120 persons and the lunch room, which is equipped with both tables and chairs, about 160.  Thirty more may be seated in the lunch room annex.  A large hand-painted panel of Mexican tile forms the main decoration in the dining room.  The furnishings show objects of value brought from many lands and to keep the early day illusion as veritable as possible, the more numerous and commonplace articles of daily use are “farm made”.  Hand carved benches, settees, chairs, primitive copies of old Spanish chests, awkward colossal tables supposed to have been made by Mexican (?) and other articles brought from Mexico, Spain, Africa, Italy and even the Orient to recreate an atmosphere of the past. Even the light fixtures vary from the fine examples of antique Spanish workmanship to the iron and tin fixtures such as would have been made by the farm hands and the local blacksmith.  The curtains and hangings, bedspreads and incidental decorations are such as the successive mistresses and their many maid servants would have made during the long winter evenings, covering many decades.  The wall decorations of the public rooms and corridors and even the bedrooms are in the primitive Mexican manner, painted free hand directly on the stuccoed walls.  With all of this effort to create a vision of the past nowhere have modern improvement been overlooked and guests will find themselves surrounded at every turn with all the comforts and service of the finest hotels of the finest hotels of the country.

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